Live Review: Perfume Genius + Mauvelle @ The Oobleck – 25/11/2014

The moody synths and high drama of Birmingham duo Mauvelle make them a logical fit for tonight’s support slot. Melissa Hollick (vocals and keys) and Joe Sullivan (beats and guitar) have an endearing natural kookiness which goes some way towards legitimising their elaborate hand gestures and occasionally gauche lyrics. Theirs is the sound of the Cocteau Twins covering a raft of Albanian Eurovision entries – peculiar for sure, but intriguing all the same.

When Perfume Genius broke out in 2010 with debut album Learning, main man Mike Hadreas cut a timorous figure, hunched over his piano, playing delicate, grimly beautiful songs of murder and abuse. So it’s a revelation when he strides into The Oobleck sporting a power suit, gleaming nail varnish and a pair of killer heels, commanding the microphone for a fierce take on My Body, a track from the strident new album Too Bright. What’s remarkable about tonight’s performance is how well the bold, full-band arrangements of Too Bright cohere with the starkness of the earlier material, with Hadreas flitting back and forth between the piano stool and his new incarnation as provocative front man, a whirl of contortions and primal screams.

With the addition of Tom from Los Campesinos! on guitar and bass, the fuller band setup allows for tracks like All Waters and Floating Spit to reach new levels of intensity, giving real muscle to Grid and the Mary Margaret O’Hara cover Body’s In Trouble, and ensuring that the anthemic main-set closer Queen fair brings the house down. But as arresting as Perfume Genius is in 2014, it’s still the more melodic material that demonstrates Hadreas’ remarkable gift the best. Tracks like Learning, Take Me Home and Lookout, Lookout have lost nothing of their stomach-churning majesty, while the addition of Tom’s EBow to Sister Song brings tears to the eyes. The evening ends with the gorgeous All Along, with Hadreas proclaiming, “I don’t need your love, I don’t need you to understand – I need you to listen”.  Tonight in Brum, he got all three.


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